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Rare icon flown from Mt Athos to Athens for pilgrimage

A rare Greek icon named “Axion Esti” from the monks community of Mt. Athos was flown to Athens on Wednesday for pilgrimage at the Cathedral in the Greek capital.

The icon, which rarely leaves Mt Athos, was welcomed with honors accorded a head of state.

Ιt was reportedly Archbiship Hieronymos of Athens and All Greece, who had requested the action on the occasion of the bicentennial of the Greek Revolution in 1821. The event had been postponed due to the coronavirus epidemic.

The Byzantine-era icon depicts the Virgin Mary with the infant Jesus, and is covered in silver on all but the faces, and is an object of great veneration associated with several miracles including its discovery. The Axion Esti is considered the rarest object at Mt. Athos.

The icon has been set up at the Athens Cathedral people form queues to pay their respect.

As the pilgrimage coincides with the pre-elections period, some conservative government minister rushed together with a photographer to get the icon’s blessing and to “publicly declare that he is a devoted and faithful Christian,” as he said to critics mocking him.

The cathedral will hold special liturgies on the occasion, including a morning service and an evening prayer. A more extensive liturgy led by prelates will be held on Sunday. May 7, on Wednesday, May 10, and Sunday, May 14, the last day before the icon returns to Mt Athos.

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